January 12, 2010

Jacksonville Spaceport to Serve Horizontal Launchers (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Jacksonville officials say that with their new FAA license in hand, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, which controls the site, will begin working with operators. According to the license, those spaceships would have to take off like an airplane and could only turn on their rockets to blast into space once they are over the Atlantic. Right now the only spaceship that fits that bill that is almost flight ready is owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which last month unveiled the first of six planned suborbital spaceships. Branson’s craft are initially set to fly out of a commercial spaceport in California, and they will eventually take off from a spaceport in New Mexico.

“The big difference between Cecil Field and the New Mexico spaceport is that we have facilities already in place,” said Todd Lindner, who has been overseeing development of the Jacksonville spaceport for JAA. Lindner said that eventually Jacksonville could modify its license to allow flights by other plane-like vehicles such as XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx – a small craft that uses a rocket engine on takeoff. Because Cecil field is near populated areas, Jacksonville initially did not want rockets roaring over neighborhoods until they had more experience and knowledge.

Lindner said that JAA is negotiating with two companies that have suitable spacecraft under development and that the first launch could be by the end of 2011. He added that Cecil Field would complement commercial vertical launch capabilities that are expected to be offered on the Space Coast. The license, which took four years to get, was welcomed as good news in year which the space shuttle is supposed to be retired and thousands of space jobs lost. “We see this milestone as the beginning of a statewide horizontal space launch network that will serve as a competitive advantage for Florida,” said Frank DiBello, the head of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace development body. (1/12)

2011 Budget Key to NASA Ambitions (Source: UPI)
The 2011 federal fiscal budget will determine how soon NASA can afford to send astronauts to the moon or Mars, space policy experts said. "The next authorization will really set the path of NASA for the next 10 to 20 years," said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., head of the House Science and Technology Committee. In October, the U.S. Human Space Flight Committee urged President Barack Obama to increase NASA's funding to about $22 billion a year -- $3 billion more than it received in the 2010 budget.

The committee said NASA's current funding put it on an "unsustainable trajectory" to finance projects such as circumnavigating the moon and Mars or land on one of Mars' moons during the next 15 years. Obama, who has described himself as a passionate supporter of the space program, must balance additional funding for NASA against a growing federal deficit and an economy struggling to regain traction, policy experts said. The White House releases its fiscal 2011 budget in early February. (1/12)

Scientists Learn Space Smarts (Source: UCF)
Researchers went back to school this week to learn what they need to know to do science in a spaceship - including how to deal with jaw-clenching acceleration and how to avoid getting distracted by the out-of-this-world view. The first 13 trainees in the Suborbital Scientist-Astronaut Training Course gathered today at the NASTAR Center in Southampton, Pa., to begin two days of classes, exercises and centrifuge spins. Their aim is to get ready for research opportunities at the edge of outer space when they become available, one or two years from now. Participating scientists came from SWRI, the University of Central Florida, Boston University, the Denver Museum of Natural History, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University Space Research Association. (1/12)

UCSC Appoints Director of University Affiliated Research Center at NASA Ames (Source: UCSC)
The University of California, Santa Cruz, has appointed Khalid Al-Ali to be executive director of the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), effective January 25, 2010. Al-Ali is currently director of research at Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus. As executive director of UARC, he will oversee the center's research contract with NASA and special relationship with the NASA Ames Research Center. (1/12)

Miami Science Museum Among NASA Allies in Informal Education (Source: NASA)
Interactive museum exhibits about climate change, Earth science, and missions beyond Earth are among the projects NASA has selected to receive agency funding. Nine informal education providers, including museums, science centers, Challenger Centers and other institutions of informal education will share $6.2 million in grants through NASA's Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums. The Miami Science Museum will use over $300,000 for "Youth EXPO: Exploring the Potential of Virtual Worlds". This is a two-year pilot study for an interactive 3-D virtual world exhibit designed to help students in grades 9-12 develop a better understanding of climate change and increase their awareness of and interest in related NASA climate science and related careers. (1/12)

California Organizations Among NASA Allies in Informal Education (Source: NASA)
Interactive museum exhibits about climate change, Earth science, and missions beyond Earth are among the projects NASA has selected to receive agency funding. Nine informal education providers, including museums, science centers, Challenger Centers and other institutions of informal education will share $6.2 million in grants through NASA's Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums. The Castle Challenger Learning Center Foundation will use over $560,000 for "STARS: Strengthening Teaching, Awareness and Resources in Science", which targets Merced County K-12 students. The Hiller Aviation Institute will use over $254,000 to develop a "Traveling Flight Science Lab". (1/12)

Embry-Riddle Alumni Stargazing at Campus Telescope (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle alumni are invigted to a Jan. 29 stargazing event at the Daytona Beach campus observatory. The event will begin at 7:00 p.m. with food and wine, followed by star (and planet) gazing from 8:00 - 10:00 p.m. Contact Chris Carta at Christopher.Carta@erau.edu for information and to RSVP. (1/12)

13th FAA Space Transportation Conference to Focus on “Igniting the Space Economy” (Source: AIAA)
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is pleased to announce that The Honorable Raymond “Ray” LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation; The Honorable Randolph J. “Randy” Babbitt, administrator, Federal Aviation Administration; The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Jr., administrator, NASA; Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander, U.S. Air Force Space Command; and Ken Bowersox, vice president, astronaut safety and mission assurance, SpaceX, will speak at the 13th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference, to be held Feb. 10–11 near Washington DC.

The conference, co-sponsored by AIAA, is organized around the theme of “Igniting the Space Economy,” and will feature high-level speakers and panels examining all areas of the commercial space transportation sector, and how NASA and America’s commercial space firms can thrive within it. The Honorable Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), U.S. House of Representatives, has also been invited to speak. Click here for information. (1/12)

Embry-Riddle Funds Space Transportation Projects Under FAA Agreement (Source: ERAU)
Under a first-of-its-kind agreement signed in November, Embry-Riddle and the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation agreed to jointly support projects aimed at supporting the industry's growth. This month, with the start of a new semester, the university is assigning funding, faculty and students to work on "Space Launch Operations Issues & Anomalies" and "Spaceport Capacity Study". Click here for information. (1/12)

Space Florida Announces Three Winning Teams In Mars Experiment Competition (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida has announced the names of the three Florida winning school teams in the recent Mars Experiment Design Competition. The winners in the three scientific categories are Mulrennan High School's TechPlayZone Red Voyagers (Hillsborough County) for “Can Water Plus Martian Soil Equal Life?”; Golden Gate High School's Big Red Mission Crew (Collier County) for “How to Produce Energy”; and Lake Nona Middle/High School's Geeky Lions (Orange County) for “Emotional Dynamics”.

Space Florida received a total of 32 completed entries in this scientific design competition. The competition invited Florida middle and high school students to design scientific experiments to send to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah in March 2010. The MDRS is one of four such facilities throughout the world, and is operated by The Mars Society. Each MARS facility can simulate many of the environmental and geological conditions encountered on the Martian surface.

The three winning teams must now refine their experiments, prior to them being shipped to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. The experiments will be performed during the month of February 2010. In the spring, and with cooperation from NASA-KSC and their Digital Learning Network (DLN), NASA personnel will transmit scientific results obtained from the experiments to the three winning teams. During these transmissions, each of the winning teams will have an opportunity to interact directly with NASA engineers. (1/12)

India’s First Manned Space Flight in 2013 (Source: The Hindu)
India would launch its first manned space flights by sending two astronauts into orbit in a Russian spaceship in 2013, according to reports. For this, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is to finance the acquisition of a Soyuz spaceship and train its astronauts by a Russian commander. The Russian cosmonaut would lead the two-member crew on an independent space flight lasting several days, Voice of Russia radio reported. Quoting deputy chief of Russian space agency (Roskosmos) Vitaly Davidov the radio said the flight of Indian astronauts would not involve a mission to the International Space Station. (1/12)

China's Space Pioneers Hit New High (Source: China Daily)
The nation's top science and technology award for 2009 has been presented to two scientists who have made great contributions to the country's space development. Gu Chaohao, 83, whose achievements in mathematics helped set a solid theoretical basis for China's space development; and space scientist Sun Jiadong, 80, received the award from President Hu Jintao yesterday morning in Beijing. Gu was honored for his contributions to differential geometry, partial differential equations and mathematical physics, the awards committee said, while Sun was recognized for his 50-year contribution to the nation's space industry and continuing service on the frontlines of space technology. They were presented 5 million yuan ($733,000) each. (1/12)

NMSU's Aerospace Program to Offer Graduate Degrees (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico State University's fledgling, but rapidly growing, aerospace engineering program gained approval in December to begin offering master's and doctoral degrees. The graduate program will accept its first students in fall 2010. This year more than 60 entering freshmen declared themselves aerospace engineering majors - the largest year-to-year increase in the program's short history. Another 60 are expected in the fall, and an external study calls for a $1 million increase in the program to support students and hire six full-time faculty members. The program employs two full-time faculty members at present, with two more projected to start in the fall. (1/12)

KSC Visitor Complex Seeks Ideas for Revamped Exhibits (Source: Florida Today)
Exciting a new generation -- most of whom remember NASA's tragedies more than its triumphs -- is the next challenge for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Relocating the Astronaut Hall of Fame Museum and updating it with more interactive exhibits are just two of the changes NASA said it wanted to see in its request for proposals to run the complex, which brings in about 1.5 million tourists a year. Delaware North Companies, which has managed the complex for the past 15 years, is bidding for a new contract to run the attraction, which tells the story of the U.S. space program using real artifacts such as an original moon rocket, twin IMAX theaters, a rocket garden and the Shuttle Launch Experience.

NASA is in the process of reviewing applications, and hopes to make a decision by March, a month before Delaware North's current contract expires. The space agency refused to identify the companies that applied or say how many were contending. The new contract is coming at an important time for the Visitor Complex as it updates exhibits, tours and displays to reflect the end of the shuttle program and the beginning of the next-generation Constellation program. (1/12)

Unusual Space Object, Possibly Man-Made, Approaches Earth (Source: RIA Novosti)
An unusual space body with parameters similar to a man-made object will approach Earth on Wednesday at a distance about three times less than the moon's orbit. The object, named 2010 AL30, will fly by Earth at a distance of at least 128,000 km (about 80,000 miles) at 12:48 GMT. As it is some 10-15 meters long, there is no chance it will directly impact the planet. According to Italian scientists, it has an orbital period of almost exactly one year and might be a man-made object such as a spent rocket booster.

Alan Harris, senior researcher at the U.S. Space Science Institute said, however, the object had a "perfectly ordinary Earth-crossing orbit." "Unlikely to be artificial, its orbit doesn't resemble any useful spacecraft trajectory, and its encounter velocity with Earth is not unusually low," he said. Astronomers will be able to observe 2010 AL30 as a 14th magnitude star in the constellations of Orion, Taurus, and Pisces. (1/12)

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